The Los Angeles Football Club is meeting a need for midfielders as training camp starts on Tuesday and has signed free agent Spaniard Ilie Sánchez.
The club announced a two-year contract for Sánchez plus a club option in 2024.
“Ilie is a player I have long admired not only for his skills on the pitch, but also for his character and professionalism, which make him an excellent fit for us,” LAFC co-chairman and general manager John Thorrington said in a statement on Wednesday. “We are confident that these qualities will help LAFC in our commitment to win on and off the field for years to come.”
LAFC presented the youngest starting lineup in the MLS last year. Sanchez joins defender Franco Escobar and striker Ismael Tajouri-Shradi in the club’s experienced signings for 2022.
The signing of Sánchez leaves LAFC with 26 players on the active 30-man roster.
The addition of goalkeepers to compete with Tomos Romero, plus the expected announcement of a new Designated Player, are on deck as the team gears up for its inaugural season under head coach Steve Cherundolo.
The LAFC preseason schedule will be announced in the coming days.
Sánchez, 31, has spent the past five seasons with Sporting Kansas City. The defensive midfielder, whose roots extend to Barcelona FC, was named to the 2018 MLS All-Star team. He made a total of 171 appearances with SKC, scoring 11 goals and 13 assists after eight years in Spain and Germany.
Aside from the pandemic-shortened 2020 MLS campaign, the 6-foot, 174-pound Sánchez appeared in at least 30 league games per season during his tenure with SKC.
Sanchez played for a $1 million base salary in 2021, demonstrating his flexibility as a central defender for parts of the season.
LAFC has not disclosed the financial terms of the free-agent deal.
At the end of November, SKC turned down a contract option on Sánchez, who addressed his departure from Kansas City in a letter to the club’s supporters on Monday.
“This has been the longest chapter of my career and I think it’s because I’ve found the right place here for me and my family to call home, both on and off the pitch,” he said. “I have loved every minute of my time in Kansas City, even in the difficult moments. Your affection, support and high expectations have helped me grow as a player and as a person. My favorite memories come to Children’s Mercy Park on game days. Nothing compares to playing for each of you. There is a unique union between the club culture and the KC community.”
Now at Banc of California Stadium, for a supporters group founded and nurtured during his time representing Kansas City, Sánchez is expected to step into the center of the park and help LAFC fill the vacancy left with the off-season transfer of 24-year-old Eduard Atuesta to Brazilian powerhouse Palmeiras.